These 13 Articles Can Help You Become More Customer-Focused

One of the difficult things about dealing with customer feedback with the mindset of putting the customers first is that there is not a road map that can help all types of businesses become more customer-focused. In the end, every business has to find their specific way to approach this issue.

However, a good place to start is to expose ourselves to different thinking and practices from those who have succeeded in building a culture where both the vision of business and the customer needs are aligned.

“We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.”  – Jeff Bezos, CEO of, Inc.

In this post, we’ve summarized some most shared content at Techstars on how to approach customer feedback and managing the customer experience. Here are 13 different perspectives we hope will help your business become more customer-focused.

Good or Not Good All Feedback Matters

In the article “Forget Big Data: How Tiny Data Drives Customer Happiness,” Customer Success Specialist Emily Chapman describes how her support team at Trello uses HelpScout to manage incoming and outgoing tickets. “We analyze the results of this data, but instead of resting our laurels on the 91 percent rated Great,” she writes, “we dig into the five percent rated Not Good.”

“Tiny data helps customer success teams give better support.” – Emily Chapman, @trello

By focusing on these individual pieces of feedback rather than overarching qualitative metrics, Chapman’s team can better get to the core of who they are as a brand. At Trello, the individual matters. They want to listen and learn from each one of their users just as much as they want to solve problems. “Trello is focused on a delightful user experience,” concludes Chapman. “Delight doesn’t happen to groups of users — it happens to individuals.”

Create Feedback Loops

In his piece “How to Create Customer Feedback Loops at Scale” on ConversionXL, Ott Niggulis says that you should be looking to gather feedback at every opportunity possible. “By building feedback experiments, measuring results and extrapolating insights,” he continues, “the goal is to learn something specific about your different visitor, lead and customer segments to improve some other area of your business.” Building feedback loops into your products shows that the company actually cares about its products, services and the people using it.

Most feedback gathering can be automated and integrated at nearly every point of your customer’s lifecycle. – Ott Niggulis, @ottniggulis

According to Niggulis, there are five different types of potential leads: non-customers, leads, first time customers, repeat buyers and non-converting customers. With five different types of potential leads come five different ideal points in the lead flow to gather feedback. From popups to follow up emails, each type of feedback loop has its own place, and automating each of them will give you more time to focus on other things.

Build hypotheses to drive your requests for feedback

In an interview with First Round Review titled “Slack’s First Product Manager on How to Make a Firehose of Feedback Useful,” Kenneth Berger shares what he’s learned about prioritizing feedback at Slack. Here are his insights:

  • Pursue Goals, Not Numbers: Your data points are actually individual humans, and it’s important to keep in mind that humans don’t always think or act logically.
  • Smarter Hypotheses Yield Smarter Insights: Spend some time deciding what you think — and hope — the outcome of your feedback request will be in order to use it wisely.
  • Know Your Biases to Keep Them in Check: Identifying what human perspectives come to play when reviewing research is critical to your understanding of how you’re reading the data.
  • Combine Qualitative and Quantitative Data to Make Them Both Stronger: Quantitative data tells you if something is wrong, and qualitative can tell you why.

There will be times you encounter user feedback that doesn’t need to be tested or explored with a survey. It just makes immediate sense. – Kenneth Berger, @kberger

Make it a Priority to Talk With Your Customers

When Michael Sippey, Twitter’s former VP of product, spoke during First Round’s CEO Summit, he shared the one most important rule and three steps for gathering powerful customer feedback that can make all the difference for your product roadmap. “Get in the Van and Other Tips for Meaningful Customer Feedback” digests his musings from over a decade of learning from great leaders.

If you want valuable, actionable product input, there’s no substitute for sitting down with your customers and prospects to truly understand their problems. – Michael Sippey, @sippey

The number one most important rule that Sippey has learned is that you must speak to your customers every day. This rule is supported by three lessons: set at least 30 meetings, “get in the van” (also known as: get everyone in the same meeting because “you can’t build an innovative solution on your own”) and focus on their problem rather than selling your solution. By giving your customer the face time they want, you will gain the perspective you need to create a product that sells itself.

Ritual Customers Pick Up

Keep Your Biases and Emotions in Check

Teresa Torres is a product discovery coach and founder of Product Talk, where she’s creating content about product that is easy to digest and immediately actionable. In a series of four swift essays, Torres writes about confirmation bias, status quo bias, the 10/10/10 rule and asking about past behavior.

Through this series and all of her essays, she reminds us of steps to take to mitigate biases and emotion to take your product to the next level. Too often, we only hear what we want to hear. We fall in love with our ideas, and even when we think to get feedback, we don’t do it in a way that allows us to really evaluate the idea.

Your brain is twice as likely to notice confirming information than it is to notice disconfirming information.- Teresa Torres, @ttorres

Keeping your ego out of the equation will help you focus on what your customers truly need rather than what you want to build. By focusing on what customers need, you create a product with market fit.

You Can’t Analyze Feedback in a Vacuum

In her piece “Making sense of customer feedback” on Intercom, Director of Research Sian Townsend asks, “what feedback should you listen to? How do you go about making sense of it?” She reminds us of six things that matter when taking feedback into consideration.

Who’s giving the feedback as well as whether it’s prompted or unprompted feedback is critical to consider when reading qualitative suggestions. “Unprompted feedback deserves special attention,” she writes, “because issues that aren’t on your radar, that you’re completely unaware of, can be the most important things you need to hear.”

[Repetitive feedback is] an indicator you haven’t got the basics right, and that’s something you have to address as a priority rather than ignore. – Sian Townsend, @intercom_uxr

She also reminds us that motivations, volume, repetition and the stakes are key indicators for why the feedback is valuable. Our opinion of priority issues can be slanted by those who are most motivated to give feedback and those who shout the loudest, as well as by multiple pieces of feedback about a single issue.

Keeping these factors in mind and teasing feedback out of the middle-of-the-road customers is critical to completing a full understanding of what customers need.

Both Types of Feedback Will Give You the Answers You’re Looking for

How do we decide which type of data to prioritize? In the article “Qualitative or Quantitative Customer Feedback? How to Get the Best of Both Worlds,” Qualaroo tells us how we can have it all. This piece also gives us an invaluable suggestion for the steps to take in collecting and visualizing customer feedback.

Quantitative and qualitative data are equally important for amplifying the voice of your customer and reaching data-informed conclusions.- @qualarooinc

According to Qualaroo, collecting customer feedback takes just three steps: create an open-ended survey, flag keywords in each comment and quantify those keywords. That way, you can turn qualitative comments into numeric data sets for analysis while still keeping the insights intact.

digital, marketing, shopping, customers

Your Customers are Your Product’s Best Friends

J.T. Trollman, product designer at Facebook, reminds us that in the end, you do listen to the people using your product for the simple reason that at least some opinions will guide your path toward improvement in his piece “Two Lessons For Using Feedback.”

Lesson 1: Know Your Core Value. “The real lesson is not to ignore the problems people say they have with your product. What’s important is how you listen to those problems. What’s your product’s reason for existing? What larger user problem are you trying to solve? If it’s not already apparent, relentlessly pursue the question until you find an answer.”

Data can tell you what opinions to hear; and conversely, opinions can tell you what data to read. – J.T. Trollman, @jtroll

Lesson 2: When In Doubt, Count. “Hundreds of loud voices can proclaim people want one thing, but the way people actually use that product can tell an entirely different story. So count people. Count early, and count often.”

Customer Feedback is Critical to Your Bottom Line

The Harvard Business Review piece “Closing the Customer Feedback Loop” by Rob Markey, Fred Reichheld and Andreas Dullweber gives us a glimpse into how companies are using Net Promoter Score (NPS) for customer service research that is directly connected to revenue, reminding us that increasing positive customer feedback and meeting conventional financial objectives are becoming one and the same goal.

The strongest feedback loops do more than just connect customers, the front line and a few decision makers in management; they keep the customer front and center across the entire organization. – Rob Markey, Fred Reichheld & Andreas Dullweber, @harvardbiz

“At companies where strong customer feedback systems take hold,” writes the trio, “business-unit leaders and frontline employees start to own customer loyalty the same way they own their targets for revenue, profits and market share.” The piece follows Grohe, Charles Schwab and Allianz employees to remind us that unless our customers are recommending our product to friends (the key identifier of NPS), we can’t grow a business.

Use Existing Feedback to Decide What Questions to Ask

Violeta Nedkova is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Amazemeet. She, like many of our other #CX-perts, uses a guide for collecting feedback and reminds us that most of the time people don’t respond to general requests. If you want really good feedback, you have to work at ‘getting it’, meaning you need to direct your users and ask the right questions.

In her piece “How to Apply ‘Diagram Thinking’ to User Feedback at Your Startup,” Nedkova helps in guiding customers toward giving feedback that matters.

If you ask certain questions and avoid others, you’re guiding the answers, which means you’re still building the product you want to build, not the one your users want to use. – Violeta Nedkova, @violetanedkova

A simple open paragraph box at the end of a survey won’t work, says Nedkova, so she gives us six steps to remember when prompting for feedback:

  • Ask for exactly the information you need.
  • Guide your users directly to the prompt or request.
  • Receive the feedback without confusion about accessing it.
  • Apply the feedback by implementing changes or fixing bugs.
  • Reply to your users by thanking them for their feedback.
  • Prompt additional testers for thorough feedback.

She ends the piece by reminding us that no one wants to be challenged, but that feedback is critical to giving yourself a 360-degree-view of your product.

Your Customers are Humans, not Robots

Oh, so you want some honesty in your feedback? In his article “How to Get More Honest Feedback in User Testing,” Nick Kellingsley from The International Design Foundation tells us what to remember — and how to make the most of it — when expecting your customers to get real with you.

There are four key human aspects, Kellingsley says, that we need to keep in mind when asking for honest feedback: we don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings, we assume we’re the ones being tested, we focus on completing a task, and we can show more than tell if we know it’s expected.

Getting better feedback out of users is a conscious process. It doesn’t require huge amounts of effort to elicit better feedback.- Nick Kellingsley, @interactiondesignorg

There is a certain finesse involved in getting your users to be honest in their feedback, but it’s not rocket science. Just chat with them the same way you would with a friend.

Assigning Someone to Customer Feedback Before You Collect it

At Kayako, Sarah Chambers is asking questions like “Who’s Accountable for Customer Feedback?” What does accountability mean? Why do you need accountability?

Feedback loops often suffer from a lack of commitment.-Sarah Chambers, @kayako

She tells it like it is — in short, it doesn’t necessarily matter who owns the feedback, as long as someone specific has been defined because, as she puts it, “Without accountability, you tend to run into the bystander effect: a perceived diffusion of responsibility.”

There’s two reasons for this effect, continues Chambers.

  • People tend to follow the crowd. If they don’t see anyone else stepping forward, they don’t think it’s necessary.
  • There’s a diffusion of responsibility. Instead of one person feeling the full weight of responsibility to save a life, the responsibility is split between one hundred witnesses, and no one is compelled enough to act.

So, how do you make a team accountable? Simple: choose the right metrics, and set frequent checkins. “By tracking progress consistently,” she concludes, it’s easier to iterate quickly and make noticeable improvements.”

Every Product has a Different Method-of-Best-Fit for Gathering Feedback

Atlassian is one of the many companies that strayed away from using NPS in favor of developing their own system for creating quantitative feedback out of qualitative data. In his talk “RUFing it out with Customer Feedback: Knowing the ‘Why’” Sean Cramer gives us insights into how to categorize and measure comments of Reliability, Usability and Functionality: RUF.

Cramer defines the complete timeline from collecting feedback to using it constructively with a few simple steps:

  • Categorize and measure by finding the sources, measuring the feedback, and categorizing the content.
  • Understand the impact of insights by determining the red lines, getting commitment to action, and establishing baseline expectations.
  • Build the system by creating insight opportunities, monitoring improvements on those insights, and communicating internally.
  • Close the loop by sharing your insights, thanking your users, and being proud of the changes that have been made.

The RUF system is used primarily by Atlassian, but can be applied equally to plenty of other companies who collect both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Cramer encourages product managers to build the system that works best for their specific product.

Your data will help you determine the ‘what’ and your feedback will help you determine the ‘why.’- Sean Cramer, @cosmocramer

We believe that while there are plenty of ways to collect and analyze feedback from customers. We’re all humans — our product teams, our management and our customers — and each of us have a story to tell. Giving your customers the opportunity and platform to tell their story will better inform your product’s and your own. In the end, isn’t that all we truly want?

Want more inspiration? Watch our exclusive videos with startup experts at Tech.Co

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Written by:
Sofia is the Founder and CEO at (London ’15). Before NomNom, Sofia was the Head of Growth at Geckoboard. She loves startups, UX, CX, growth, philosophy, psychology, life hacking, data driven culture, art, fajitas and awesomeness.
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